Second Contact, Part III
According to Borges, Pierre Menard was a practitioner of right-handed Tantra in public. Among his many achievements was a book on George Boole’s symbolic logic. He also worked on Leibniz’s philosophy and Zeno’s paradox - which makes me believe the longstanding rumor that he was working on a manuscript on the continuum.
It’s one of the great tragedies of modern mathematics that the continuum has been subsumed by the discrete. Achilles defeated the Tortoise with a set in one hand and limits in the other. Not true! Mathematics awaits a revolution in which the relation between the continuum and the discrete is inverted.
Once upon a time, novelists and logicians talked to one another. Pierre Menard was one of the last exemplars of that extinct species. His practice of left-handed Tantra isn’t well known, but he spent many years of his life writing Don Quixote.
Pierre Menard is the illustrious inventor of Second Contact as a literary genre. Anyone can write a derivative work of art or if they’re truly despicable, they might write a commentary. It takes real courage to reproduce a novel word for word and improve the original by doing so. It’s the fate of our generation to do the same thing with the planet: to reproduce it atom for atom, cell for cell, tree for tree and cloud for cloud and make it into the Eden from which we were exiled so many years ago.
Don’t ask me where we will store that reproduction. It’s the same planet, not a different one. It’s exactly where the original was: in front of your eyes. You have to change nothing, not even a pebble is out of place. All you need is the vision of the Don, who was able to see a castle where a normal person sees a hovel.
I know you’re laughing at this unfortunate man, but give him comfort. He’s blessed with fancy, just like his creator, Pierre Menard, who was bold enough to say a century before the internet that:
Thinking, meditating, imagining:' he also wrote me, "are not anomalous acts-they are the normal respiration of the intelligence. To glorify the occasional exercise of that function, to treasure beyond price ancient and foreign thoughts, to recall with incredulous awe what some doctor universalis thought, is to confess our own languor, or our own barbarie. Every man should be capable of all ideas, and I believe that in the future he shall be:'
We have spent every waking hour in the clutches of this blue planet and after millennia of taking it for granted, we have been given the task of rewriting the book of life. It takes a special kind of madness to become a planetary editor, one that combines innocence with outrage. Will we ever be able to see the Earth the way Kelvin describes Solaris:
I don’t know, but Second Contact demands that we do.
That’s it for this episode of detour #1; I will get back to the adventures of Senor Quixote and Senorita Shahrazad in the fullness of time. The next few days are on Silver and China and related topics, and then, starting next week I am going to be in summer mode, with updates once a week instead of five times a week until the end of August.